Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
How many times have we heard that ‘practice makes perfect’? That, the more our kids practice, the quicker they will advance? That, “if they practice three times this week, they will be a master of this new technique”? While practice is one of the most important aspects to progressing in music, it’s important that we know how our kids should practice. That’s what makes the difference.
Learning the Mantra
As a young violin student, I had three tutors over my nine years of lessons. I was influenced by their unique backgrounds with the violin, which were all vastly different. In these years, I was taught the way of the fiddle tunes, an eccentric flair towards creative pieces I’d never before heard, as well as the techniques to master the classical violin must-knows. Of all these three tutors, however, it was my final tutor who actually taught me how to practice properly.
Each week, I got to spend 30 short minutes with her undivided attention, where she would rearrange my fingers into the correct position for me, hold my bow arm as I moved gently over each string to produce the perfect resonance, and give me exercises where I didn’t even need my violin. At the end of each lesson she would always reiterate for me to make sure I’m practicing properly. She would always tell me that, “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect”.
Applying the Mantra
At home, I needed to play through those tricky parts ‘ten million times’ before I was allowed to play through the rest of the piece to make sure that I was practicing perfectly. (She used to tell her students to practice each tricky part 1,000 times until one day she had a student come into his lesson crying because he only had time to practice it 856 times, which is why she now says ten million to make sure her students know it’s an exaggeration!!)
It was all good for her to tell me what to do for the rest of the week, but I found myself forgetting what she had said most of the time. This is where I wished I had someone reminding me what I need to get done during the rest of the week.
Asking for Help
For parents who can’t be in the lesson, it can sometimes be hard to monitor your child’s practice sessions and how they practice. Not only is it important for parents to remind their kids to practice and give them positive feedback, students need to know that practicing needs to include all the exercises covered in the lesson, preferably as warm ups.
In every lesson, I can guarantee that there will have been some technical work covered. Parents can prompt their children to remember what work this included by simply asking, “have you practiced your scales?” or, “what parts of your new piece did you work on this week?” Questions like these will get the student thinking about what parts they were asked to practice ‘ten million times’.
If you are unsure of how to guide perfect practice at home, ask your music mentor! They will be able to give you specific, tangible steps to implement at home.
Facilitating Perfect Practice with your Child
Another way parents can keep up to date with what their children should be practicing is by looking over the lesson notes written in their children’s music diaries and the notes that will be emailed to you. Your mentor will generally take the last few minutes of the lesson to write in their student’s diaries and during this time, if possible, it’s a great idea to have a quick chat with your child’s tutor, where they will most likely review the lesson to you and let you know what they need to work on.
Should a student not practice their exercises all week, it becomes very easy for them to practice a mistake over and over, where it then becomes very hard to reverse. This is something that I struggled with as a student, and I never really grasped the importance until I saw results, which came after I committed myself to practicing perfectly every day for a week. Seeing these results prompted me to continue practicing my exercises as warm-ups, and this perfect practice allowed me to excel in my ability.
If a parent is able to sit in the lesson (which tutors love!), it means that you are able to hear exactly what your child’s tutor wants your child to practice, and you will also hear how your child should practice it.
During my first lessons, my parents were always able to sit in on lessons which allowed me to advance in my first years very well. At home, my parents would remind me to slow down (which I was always told in lessons) and to play my exercises. My tutor would often also get my parents to hold a bow and he taught them the proper bow hold, among other simple exercises. This meant that they would know exactly what to look for while I was practicing to make sure that I was practicing perfectly.
Remember... Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
As a little advice for any parents reading this, please make as much contact with your child’s tutor as possible. They will give you hints and tips of how to help your children practice at home and what you should look for. In turn, your children playing at home will sound better and better each week. Remember to encourage your children as the more often they work on practicing perfectly, the more brilliant musician they will become.